Viva la Devolution!

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – DA Federal Leader
24 Feb 2023 in News

President Ramaphosa got it absolutely wrong in his State of the Nation Address when he said we are a nation defined by resilience. On the contrary, we are a nation in a profoundly fragile position, facing the real prospect of total grid collapse and national anarchy.

Central control

The fragility of our nation really hit home this past week. Eskom implemented stage 7 loadshedding and lost its CEO (with COO soon to follow). And crime statistics were released for October to December 2022 showing South Africa’s murder rate is now 82 murders per day on average (up from 58 five years ago), which makes us more dangerous than the average war-torn country.

The problem with centralized power is that it puts all our eggs in one basket. For energy supply, that basket is Eskom. For safety, it is SAPS which is controlled by national government (though this fact seems to have escaped Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele who criticized the DA during his SONA debate speech for Cape Town’s under-resourced police stations). Eskom and SAPS are both failing. Everyone is suffering. And we have nowhere else to turn. This is fragility, not resilience.

Nature knows best.

To become a truly resilient nation, we need to learn from nature. Natural systems tend to be decentralised, allowing for innovation, adaptability, and regeneration, making them robust and resilient. Take energy generation. Every green leaf or blade of grass out there is a micro power plant. If one leaf or branch fails, the tree survives. If one tree fails, the forest survives.

Power to the people.

This is essentially the message I sought to convey in my SONA reply speech. That South Africa has pursued a centralized system for long enough to feel the reality of the failure. That it is time to embrace a decentralised system where economic decision-making power is distributed across the nation by means of a market-driven economy, and where power to perform a function is located at the lowest effective level of government.

Viva la Devolution!

The DA is working hard to have powers over energy generation and policing devolved to competent governments in Cape Town and the Western Cape. We are making progress on both fronts, setting important precedents for other competent metros and provinces to follow. We strongly believe people must get good governance if they vote for it.

By throwing open the energy market and doing everything possible to incentivise local power production, the City of Cape Town is building a resilient energy system for its residents, with the next bid round opening next month. It will take three years to wean the City off dependence on Eskom. But thereafter, residents will benefit from a decentralised system where they will never again have to contemplate the threat of total collapse.

Ground-breaking progress

Cape Town and the Western Cape are also constantly pushing the envelope on public safety, using political, legal and de facto processes to expand the functions and mandates of its Metro and LEAP police forces. The City scored a ground-breaking success last week when the Western Cape High Court granted its application to serve eviction notices to unlawful occupants of public spaces in the CBD. This was after the City made every effort to help them off the streets, including offers of dignified transitional shelter at NGO-run shelters and City-run Safe Spaces. The legal action is premised on the belief that a city’s public places serve important social and community purposes and must be open and available for all.


Other good news is that Cilliers Brink is the DA mayoral candidate for Tshwane. Brink is an extraordinarily capable individual who, as member of the mayoral committee for Corporate and Shared Services from 2016 to 2019, spearheaded the fight against irregular contracts entered into under Tshwane’s last ANC mayor. If he is elected, I am confident he will rise to the challenge of leading South Africa’s Capital City down the same path of good governance and devolution that Cape Town is blazing.


If we want to be a resilient nation, we’re going to have to fight and vote for decentralization. Power to the people!